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  • Writer's pictureFr. Scott Haynes

A Time for Mercy and a Time for Judgment

Fr. Scott A. Haynes

To remind the faithful of the urgent need to respond to God’s tender mercies, St. Alphonsus de Liguori told a story that he learned from reading an account given by Tritemius and Camsius. Tritemius and Camsius recount the story of a man named Udo from the Saxon city of Magdeburg, who was so untalented and unlearned as a child that he was the object of derision among his peers.

Our Lady assists Udo & he is made Bishop of Magdeburg

Now, on one particularly discouraging day, Udo sought solace in prayer before an icon of the Most Holy Virgin. Mary visited him in his dreams, promising to comfort him. She pledged to obtain heavenly graces for him and that she would shield him from ridicule and even earn him admiration. When the Bishop of Magdebury died, Mother Mary promised that Udo would succeed him as Bishop—a remarkable promise! This is what Mary prophesied, and it came to pass. Udo advanced in the knowledge of God and eventually became the city’s Bishop.

Udo, however, was so indifferent to God’s grace and to Mary’s intercession that he gave himself over to a life of moral decadence and became a disgrace among his people. Ungrateful for all the Lord had done for him and the special graces Our Lady had aquired for him, as he lay in bed with a particularly wicked partner one night, he heard a voice say, “Udo, cease this sinful pastime; you have sinned enough.”

He considered these comments as a reprimand and was initially annoyed by them. But when he heard it again the next night, and the night after that, he started to worry that it was a voice from above. Despite this, he persisted in his evil ways. God gave him three months to change his ways before meting out his punishment. There is a time for mercy. But if we are unrepentant, we should expect a severe judgment.

The empty Church fills with judges from Heaven.

A devoted canon called Frederick was praying one night in the Church of St. Maurice for God to wipe away the scandal that Udo had caused when, lo and behold, the door to the Church was blown open by a gust of wind. Two young men walked in carrying lit torches and positioned themselves on either side of the High Altar. Then two more came and set a carpet in front of the High Altar and two golden thrones on it.

After him came a young man dressed in military garb, brandishing a sword. He stopped in the center of the Church and proclaimed,

“Oh ye Saints of Heaven, whose relics are preserved in this Church, come to assist at the great trial of justice which the Sovereign Judge is about to execute.”

In response to these pleas, a large number of saints and the twelve apostles descended from heaven to assist in heaven’s judgment of Bishop Udo. Then the Eternal Judge, Our Lord Jesus Christ, came in and was seated upon the throne. Then the Holy Virgin Mary entered, accompanied by many holy virgins, and took her place on the other throne, next to her Beloved Son. Christ gave the order for the perpetrator, the wicked Bishop Udo, to be brought forward. St. Maurice spoke and demanded justice for his shameful life on behalf of the people whom he had scandalized.

Our Lady sadly leaves the Church to not be present at that tremendous act of justice.

Everyone in the room cried out, “Oh Lord, he deserves to die.” Then Christ, our Lord and Judge, said, “Let him die.” Mary, the merciful Mother, departed the Church before the sentence was carried out so that she would not be present to see that act of justice. The vision ended when the heavenly minister, who had been among the first to come with the sword in his hand, drew near Udo and struck once, severing the head from the body.

The canon, shaking with fear, reached for a candle in the darkened Church. Upon his return, he saw Udo’s severed head and the bloodstained floor. People flocked to the Church as soon as dawn broke to hear the canon’s account of the terrifying vision and the events leading up to it. On the same day, the miserable Udo, who condemned himself to Hell by his wickedness, appeared to one of his chaplains, who had been unaware of what had happened in the Church, and confirmed everything that had taken place.

Udo’s corpse was dumped in a marsh, but his blood was left upon the Church’s stone floor as an everlasting reminder of the just punishment he merited for the evil he had done. A carpet would cover the blood-stained floor, but it became a custom to uncover it whenever a new Bishop took charge of the Diocese, so that it would remind him to pursue a life of holiness and grace and be grateful for the blessings of the Lord and his Most Holy Mother.


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